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Music Award for Young People Highlights Mental Health

Applications are open for a music award that supports young musicians from South East London.

Designed for artists between 16 and 25 years old who display musical talent, performance skills, business acumen and are passionate about forging a successful career, the Ed Renshaw Award was set up in 2012 in memory of an accomplished young guitarist who tragically took his own life aged just 30.

Renshaw was a gifted musician. Born in Greenwich in 1981 and a student at Thomas Tallis School, he began learning guitar aged 10. Music broadcaster Sandy Burnett called him: “a supremely talented jazz and classical guitarist.” But Renshaw also suffered with bouts of depression, and in 2011 he lost his struggle.

Judged by representatives from Peter Conway Management, a music management and promotions company which runs the award, and The Albany, a performing arts centre driven by the cultural diversity and creative mix of south east London, the Ed Renshaw Award is open to solo artists and bands. Cash prizes of between £1000 and £3000 help young musicians fund their career plans. Prizes also include mentorship and support from Peter Conway Management and rehearsal and performance space at The Albany. Winners are invited to partake in four live concerts between October 31st and November 3rd 2018, with headline acts to be announced later in the year. Musicians are chosen for their originality, talent and commitment, regardless of genre.

In its third bi-annual outing, Peter Conway Management and The Albany welcome a new partner, the national charity Youth Music. Funded by the National Lottery via Arts Council England, Youth Music exists to support children and young people, to build their confidence, resilience and self-esteem, and to develop the skills they need to succeed.

Youth Music’s CEO, Matt Griffiths says:

We’re very pleased to support this award, which will provide vital career progression opportunities and support young musicians who might otherwise miss out.

Renshaw’s life is regularly commemorated by concerts at The Albany. Staged by family and friends in partnership with Peter Conway Management, proceeds from the events combine with donations from members of the public towards the award.

Winners from 2016 were Megan Tuck and Blinkz Virgo, and Jay Johnson and in 2014 prizewinners included Lucy Cait whose song Gabriel’s Wharf has been featured on the BBC’s Steve Lamacq’s Rock College.

The closing date for applications is Thursday June 28th and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed by the awards panel on Saturday 14th July. Application forms can be found at thealbany.org.uk.

If you or a friend or colleague is suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, use the links on this advice page from Help Musicians to find help. 

Those needing help and emotional support can also call Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or call the Help Musicians’ dedicated mental health helpline on 0808 802 8008. It’s free of charge and someone will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call.

Give a Gig for Youth Music

Youth Music is a national charity investing in music-making projects for children and young people facing challenging circumstances. These challenges include disability, poverty, mental health issues, refugee status or being brought up in care. Founded in 1999, Youth Music runs more than 350 projects across England, facilitating music making for around 75,000 children and young people.


This March, the charity is running a week-long music making extravaganza. Give a Gig week, which runs from March 24th to 31st 2017, is a nationwide project asking musicians to put on performances supporting young people. The aim is to see 100 gigs in settings from living rooms, local pubs and community facilities to legendary music venues or even more unusual spaces. York-based covers band, The Monotones, plan to stream gigs live from all Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Pennines!

Matt Griffiths, Youth Music’s CEO, says:

We’re really excited about Give a Gig Week. The money raised from the 100 gigs across the country will ensure that young people experiencing challenges in their lives can regularly make music. Musicians, bands and those making music for fun know first-hand the personal and social benefits of music making and how it can help overcome really difficult situations. I urge you to get involved and put on a gig so that many more young people have that opportunity too.

Youth Music supports practical, creative music making of every possible style and technique, with activities including songwriting, music production and performance.  Projects include the Songbirds project, which provides music making for seriously ill children at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, and Amies Freedom Choir in London, supporting young women who have been trafficked into the UK.

These opportunities improve personal and social skills as well as helping young people develop musically, and can give participants the tools to face difficult challenges in their lives. Communities divided by prejudice or gangs can be brought together to perform. Learning to write song lyrics can enable a bereaved teenager to express and process grief. Making hip-hop beats can help a young person to understand maths in a way they perhaps couldn’t grasp at school.


Before their chart-topping success, hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks performed on the Youth Music stage at the Underage Music Festival in 2009. The duo explain:

Without Youth Music we wouldn’t have got to where we are today, honestly! We’re supporting Give a Gig ‘cause we want others to have the same opportunities for making music that we did.

Laura Mvula honed her songwriting skills with Black Voices, a project supported by Youth Music in Birmingham. Now working as an Ambassador for the charity, Laura says:

Give a Gig is a really good idea because it allows singers, musicians and venues to do what they’re already doing for the benefit of a young person.

 seb_hr_high-resAnd pop star Sophie Ellis-Bextor spoke up for the initiative:

Music is a huge part of my life and I feel so lucky to have been able to make a career out of something that I love so much. Youth Music creates music-making opportunities for thousands who would otherwise miss out. That’s why I’m supporting Give a Gig – so others can experience the joys of music as I’ve done.

It’s easy to get involved – Youth Music offers a useful support pack with advice on planning and promoting gigs, as well as an online poster generator for creating publicity materials. Sign up at www.giveagig.org.uk

Follow Give a Gig Week:

Twitter@giveagig  #giveagig

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/giveagigweek

Instagram: http://instagram.com/give_a_gig

Online: www.giveagig.org.uk

Give a Gig Week takes place nationwide from 24 -31 March, 2017. To register your gig visit www.giveagig.org.uk


Addressing the Challenge of Mental Wellbeing in Music

Christmas is fast approaching. It’s a time associated with happiness and music, lights, gifts and laughter. But Christmas can be a dark time for some, particularly those struggling with mental health issues.

Having been around musicians all my life, I have come across many who have suffered from mental health issues, from mild depression and anxiety to those suffering from bipolar disorder. I am glad that the Industry is now starting to acknowledge the challenge of mental health difficulties and looking to support those who need help. Identifying those who need help is key to ensuring people get the support they need. For some mental health issues start early, and schools and youth groups are not always able to support those who need help, talking about these challenges can ensure that people get the support they need.

Maria Thomas, The Music Workshop Company

The music industry has been determinedly addressing issues of wellbeing in performers in recent years. Players suffering physical issues such as RSI brought on by overuse, stress or postural issues have been able to find much needed support. There is considerable effort to educate musicians in a holistic way, acknowledging the importance of looking after the body. The stigma around illness and injury in a competitive profession has lessened.


Now the focus has turned to mental health, an issue that is particularly pertinent for many during the Christmas period. In May 2016, Help Musicians UK ran a survey of over 2200 performers. The survey discovered that 70% of musicians have experienced anxiety and panic attacks. It was also found that music-industry professionals can be up to three times more likely to suffer depression than those in other career fields.

These issues are prevalent throughout music, both in classical orchestras and touring rock bands. The highs of performance can make every-day life seem mundane, touring tests relationships, standards are high and perfectionism is rife. Aspects of the industry are glamorised by alcohol and drugs, and social drinking can easily mask destructive alcoholism. Performance anxiety and pressure to deliver at a high level can lead to excessive drinking, low self-esteem, obsessive compulsive behaviour and depression. The fact that self-image has little to do with talent becomes obvious when watching TV spectacles such as the X-Factor auditions. Some of the most talented musicians have huge levels of self-doubt. Studies have also shown that incidences of bipolar disorder are possibly linked with high childhood IQ and creativity.

The problem with mental health issues as opposed to physical illness is that they are often invisible and therefore unnerving to those who have no experience of them. A broken leg is more easily understood. There is a level of shame associated with mental illness – sufferers can feel they have an intrinsic weakness and fear that their careers will suffer if they reach for help.


Luckily, attitudes are changing. More than 20 years after the suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain who was thought to have bipolar disorder, bipolar and depression are much more openly discussed in the media after celebrities such as Stephen Fry ‘came out’ as sufferers. As a result, musicians are beginning to speak up. Composer Nico Muhly, blogging for American music site Noted Endeavours, called for a destigmatisation of mental illness and depression among musicians.

And in May 2016, coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, the Santiago Quartet completed a fundraising campaign to record an album in aid of Mind, the mental health charity, motivated by ‘cellist Jonathan Hennessey-Brown’s recovery from bipolar.

The pressures of life and juggling career, parenthood and personal issues led to a vicious return of bipolar-based mania about 3 years ago,” says Jonathan. “Music, helping others and the Santiago Quartet have been instrumental in aiding my recovery from my third, and hopefully final, hospitalisation. I also find it crucial to avoid drinking any alcohol whatsoever so my medication works.

The industry is rallying to offer support for musicians, delivering the message that mental wellbeing is as relevant as physical health, and that it is important to seek professional help. Professional bodies including the Musicians’ Union offer useful advice and information, and following its survey, Help Musicians hope to have a service dedicated to musicians’ mental health in place by 2017. Online resources make it possible for everyone working in the industry, whether as a performer or in management, to understand more about these issues. The statistics shown in the Help Musicians’ survey indicate that even those lucky enough to avoid mental health issues will find themselves working with or employing someone who has experienced these problems.

If you, a family member, friend or fellow musician could use some advice about mental health issues, the list of links below contains a wide range of information and support for illnesses from addiction and anxiety to eating disorders and more. Please share this list with your students and colleagues.

The Music Workshop Company would like to wish you a happy and healthy Christmas!

Help Musicians: https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/get-advice/health-wellbeing/mental-health/mental-health

Musicians’ Union: http://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/Advice/Your-Career/Health-and-Safety/Wellbeing

British Association of Performing Arts Medicine: http://bapam.org.uk/news/tag/mental-health/

ArtsMinds: http://www.artsminds.co.uk

Mind, the Mental Health Charity: http://www.mind.org.uk

Alcoholics Anonymous: http://alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk

Al Anon (for relatives and friends of alcoholics): http://www.al-anonuk.org.uk

Jonathan Hennessey-Brown’s blog on HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jonathan-hennesseybrown/my-journey-through-bipolar_b_9872792.html


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